Questions about Everett schools’ $330 million bond vote?

EVERETT — As voters consider bond requests from local districts totaling more than $700 million in school construction projects, officials are putting on events to answer questions.

The Everett School District has scheduled an open house for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Penny Creek Elementary, 4117 132nd St. SE. Deputy Superintendent Joyce Stewart, Executive Director of Facilities and Operations Mike Gunn and Executive Director of Finance and Operations Jeff Moore plan to be on hand to share information.

The topics of the open house are the district’s requests for a $330.6 million bond and a separate programs and operations levy. There will be discussion about what goes into calculating the cost of a new school and what the plans look like for some of the big-ticket bond items. Of the $330.6 million, $216.8 million would be to build the district’s fourth large high school, at the south end. Other projects include updating other high schools, adding classrooms at multiple campuses and purchasing land for another elementary.

Voters can bring their questions about overall school taxes, too. These bonds and levies are on the ballot during what administrators in several local districts have called a time of transition in school funding.

The state this year is starting to collect higher taxes for schools under new laws meant to address McCleary, the Washington Supreme Court decision that says the state must foot the bill for basic education. That statewide increase lands on top of existing local levies, most of them passed by voters in 2014, that don’t expire until the end of this year. Paired with rising property valuations, it means a substantial tax hike this year for property owners throughout Snohomish County.

Starting in 2019, new local levies for schools, if approved, would be lower than the current ones. That is expected to level off or decrease overall school taxes in the coming years, according to school finance directors and superintendents.

“We can’t do anything about what the state did this year, but next year, when we have some control, we’ve lowered our ask,” Moore said.

State regulations also have capped how much districts can ask for in local levies, now called enrichment levies, for 2019 and beyond.

Everett, Arlington and Northshore, the three local districts asking for bonds, say they do not expect to see local taxes increase if bonds and levies are approved; Everett and Northshore also have levies on the ballot, Arlington does not. Bonds go toward construction and other major projects, while levies can be for operations, technology and maintenance.

“The tax increase for the state is going to happen regardless of bonds or levies passed,” said Brian Lewis, executive director of operations for the Arlington School District.

In Arlington, voters are considering a $107.5 million bond that would build a new Post Middle School, add to Arlington High School and improve security throughout the district, among other projects. Public tours of Post Middle School are scheduled for 6 p.m. on Feb. 8, and 10 a.m. on Feb. 10.

In the Northshore School District, a $275 million bond request would go toward projects such as a new elementary on Maltby Road, expanding Skyview Middle and Canyon Creek Elementary schools and adding to Inglemoor High School. There are open houses scheduled for 7 p.m. on Jan. 30, 31, and Feb. 1. They are at Woodinville, Bothell and Inglemoor high schools, respectively.

Ballots were mailed last week and are due by Feb. 13.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com

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